as a college social networking site, think again. Research from a
recent user study shows that more than half of Facebook users are not
currently enrolled in a university or college and that the site’s
fastest-growing demo is the 25+ age group
Regardless, Homersapien features a bevy of features that Simpsons
fans should recognize. Here’s an excerpt from a product description
over at UK-based retailer Gadgetshop:
With 67 new pre-programmed functions, Homersapien
can pick up objects, throw objects, kick objects and dance around the
room as well as the more expected “Homerisms” such as belching,
snoring, farting, and the classic Homer “Doh!” - he’s even programmed
with a number of Kung Fu moves! Homersapien is pre-programmed with
catchphrases galore taken from all manner of shows from various series’
and even has his own Krusty Burger cup which he holds so dear.
As people are stockpiling online friends and contacts through social
networks, it makes sense to let them be as giving to their online
friends as to their offline buddies. Online flower store Social Flowers
spotted a business opportunity, and has created a way for consumers to
send flowers to their Facebook friends without having to ask for their
personal details. How it works? Users install the Social Flowers
Facebook application, select a recipient from their friends list, pick
a floral gift and pay. Social Flowers then sends the recipient an email
and a Facebook notification requesting their address, and the flowers
are delivered by one of 30,000 local florists in the US and Canada.
Social Flowers aims to extend its service to other social networks
as soon as possible. Meanwhile, other retailers should jump on the
potential for integrating all kinds of gift giving. A notification of a
friend's birthday on Facebook could be accompanied by a retailer's
special offer for sending chocolates, for example. Or Match.com suitors
might want to send a bouquet to a virtual paramour. Books for contacts
on LinkedIn, photo prints for Flickr friends, etc. One to pursue if
you're in online retail! Key points to keep in mind: ensure both
parties' personal information is safe and secure, and respect the
community—don't peddle your wares aggressively, just make it easy for
consumers to show the same kind of appreciation for their online
friends as they already do for people they know offline.
The services below have not only spawned copycats, but software
projects designed to make copying them easier, which may be proof that
there is really something to their idea.
the micro-blogging app from Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack Dorsey,
has been one of the most buzz-worthy web apps of the past year. After a
demo at SXSW in March, Twitter exploded in popularity to become a top
1000 site (according to Alexa). So it's no wonder people want to copy
is a soon-to-launch micro-blogging platform from development house
Combtail. Folkstr mimics Twitter in appearance, though it seems to lack
We recently pegged Digg as a major acquisition target.
Digg is the web's top social news web site, and has spawned an
incredible number of niche copycat sites. Many of them run or were
initially launched using the open source Digg-clone Pligg.
Pligg is a faithful reproduction of Digg (though it hasn't caught up in
terms of threaded comments), and even adds some features, such as
tagging and the ability to automatically share links on other popular
social news and bookmarking sites.
Speaking of bookmarking... many have tried but no one has yet
succeeded in dethroning the king social bookmarking websites: Yahoo!'s del.icio.us. If you think you're up to it, the open source Scuttle
is a good way to start. Unfortunately, Scuttle's main web site is down
right now, and a new version hasn't been released in over a year.
was one of the first big success stories of web 2.0, cashing in for
over $1.65 billion last fall when it was acquired by Google.
AlstraSoft's Video Share Enterprise
is a PHP/MySQL script that clones YouTube. Video Share duplicates most
of YouTube's features pretty well, and powers a number of
small-to-medium sized sites, such as the paintball video sharing web
site Xhaled. Also check out another YouTube clone script vShare.
It seems unlikely that either of these scripts could scale out of the
box to support anywhere near the traffic of YouTube, though.
has been one of Yahoo!'s greatest success stories. It was not the first
question and answer site, but has grown into the largest, and is one of
Yahoo!'s largest social networking sites. The team behind the Symfony
PHP framework decided to clone Yahoo! Answers as a demo application to
show off their framework. They came up with askeet!,
a no frills Answers clone that uses Digg-style voting to determine the
most interesting questions and thumbs up/down voting to determine the
best answers. Not only is askeet!'s source code available under the MIT
license, the developers also put out a 24-part tutorial series detailing exactly how it was built.
Facebook might get all the hype, but MySpace
is still by far the largest social network. As such, it is also the
most often copied. One of the most popular and well-developed MySpace
clone scripts out there is phpFoX. phpFoX is behind some fairly large niche MySpace clones, like the punk-rock centric Punx.
The script supports all the features MySpacers love, such as groups,
polls, forums, blogs, messaging, and profiles replete with ugly
backgrounds and annoying auto-playing music.
Just a few days ago Richard MacManus wrote about how AJAX start pages like PageFlakes and Netvibes
are aiming to take on social networks. The barrier for entry in getting
into this hot area has never been lower than now thanks to Alstrasoft's
AJAX DeskTop StartPage Enterprise,
a PHP and MySQL based AJAX start page script that mimics the sites I
just mentioned. I was actually pleasantly surprised by this product.
The demo at MeVou.com is impressive, and offers a number of built in widgets and the ability to add custom RSS feeds from any source.
Unlike any other of the products in this round up, MediaWiki isn't really a copycat. It's the actual open source software that powers Wikipedia.
MediaWikia can, of course, be used for other applications than simply
creating a clone of Wikipedia -- and it often is. As one of the most
powerful and well-developed wiki applications on the market, MediaWiki
is deployed the web over by people wishing to create wikis for a number
While I'm still not too keen on straight clones of other services,
what the above scripts and applications prove is that the cost of entry
for web 2.0 sites is extremely low. Development of a site like YouTube
might have cost in the tens of thousands a couple of years ago, but now
a clone script can be had for $10. Many of these clone applications are
free or open source. Granted these scripts might not scale very well,
and they might not be as securely coded as something you have custom
made, but the point is that, as Guy Kawasaki says, "things are a whole lot cheaper and easier these days."
Twango was founded in 2004 by five former Microsoft
Corp. senior managers and has 10 employees. Unlike some larger,
better-known competitors such as Yahoo Inc.'s Flickr photo service and Google
Inc.'s YouTube video Web site, Twango works with a range of media,
including photos, video and audio. Co-founder Serena Glover said
pairing with Nokia will give it access to distribution and resources.
Nokia, which is likely to rebrand the Twango service,
plans to incorporate software into its phones to ease sending content
between phones and the Internet. Twango's service is free, but Nokia
plans to add elements for which customers will have to pay. The handset
maker has agreements with Flickr and Six Apart Ltd.'s blogging service,
Vox, which handles video, to ease uploading photos and videos from its
phones. Nokia plans to continue these relationships in order to provide
choice for customers.
Nokia tried to expand into content in the 1990s,
offering game and ring-tone downloads, but cut back that service in
2003 and later halted it as premature.
Pageflakes has taken the next step from being just a start page, by
adding social networking functionality. Netvibes hasn't yet gone that
far, but I suspect it's coming soon.
However there's still a lot of work to be done by both start pages
to catch up to Facebook or even MySpace - and that's purely down to
number of third party widgets and of course number of users on the
network. So while I agree with Josh that start pages will challenge the
existing social networks - it's almost evolutionary for them to become
social networks - it will need a big influx of developers and users
before they're truly competitive in that space.
Someone is taking the Web from the Webkinz.
Webkinz are cute stuffed animals that happen to be one of the
hottest got-to-have items among young girls. They cost between $8 and
$30, and each comes with a secret code number. Type it into the
instantly a virtual version of the toy appears and takes up residence
in Webkinz World, a site filled with games, simple chat rooms and other
online activities suitable for preteens.
But some merchants say they are noticing an alarming phenomenon.
People are stealing the tags that carry the secret codes and leaving
the toys forever marooned in the real world.
That’s right. Shoppers are snatching tiny squares of paper for their
digits and, in effect, chucking the actual toy for the animated,
digital one. It may well be the first case of identity theft of a
The problem has gotten so bad in some New York stores that the plush pets have been placed behind the cashier.
“We have to keep a good eye on them,” said Rosie Weissbart, co-owner
of a State News store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “We don’t want
to, but it’s the nature of the beast.”
eBay’s online marketplace raked in nearly $6 billion last year helping people sell nearly anything they’ve got, including a hocking a few iPhones.
Savvy consumers often flock to the service, sniping for hard to get
items or some deeper discounts than retail stores. Common sense says
that markets prices goods appropriately, based on supply and demand.
However some economists found otherwise.
A study from some UC Berkeley economists found that consumers didn’t always buy goods at the best deal. Here are some of the insights:
iLike launched last October. In the nine months since they’ve gathered 3.5 million users (the orange stats in the picture), up from half a million
in February. Not bad. But what’s really impressive is the fact that in
less than two months nearly 5 million more people have signed up for
the service on Facebook, where it is the third most popular third party application.
The difference will only become greater - 2,800 Facebook users are
joining every hour, whereas the main site only gets 652 new users/hour.
Much of the popularity of the iLike Facebook application is driven
by something called the iLike Music Challenge, where users try to guess
songs or artist names based on listening to a 30 second snippet from a
song. Users get points for correct answers (and more points for fast
answers), and compete with their friends. It’s highly addictive and
viral - Partovi says the average user session last a whopping 80 songs.
Since points are public, I can see that a lot of my Facebook friends
are totally addicted to this. See the screen shot below, and click for
a larger view.
Two Sets Of Users
iLike has a bit of a problem, because it has two distinct sets of users
using two different products. There isn’t much overlap between the two
groups, he says, because the Facebook application isn’t promoted on the
The company is currently dedicating resources to merge the user
groups and make the functionality between the products identical (or at
least more similar). They’ll start by comparing cookies to find
cross-users. If cookies from both products are on a user’s browser,
they’ll ask if they have accounts at both and optionally merge them.
While their in the process of doing that, they continue to support
the two products separately. All new beta features are released on both
platforms, so its just the legacy stuff that needs to move. The most
important features are the data gathered from the iTunes plugin - users
want to show playlists and the music they are listening to on Facebook.
All of that is coming soon, the company says.
1. Your idea isn't new. Pick an idea; at least 50 other people have
thought of it. Get over your stunning brilliance and realize that
execution matters more.
2. Stealth startups suck. You're not working on the Manhattan
Project, Einstein. Get something out as quickly as possible and promote
the hell out of it.
3. If you don't have scaling problems, you're not growing fast enough.
4. If you're successful, people will try to take advantage of you.
Hope that you're in that position, and hope that you're smart enough to
not fall for it.
5. People will tell you they know more than you do. If that's really the case, you shouldn't be doing your startup.
6. Your competition will inflate their numbers. Take any startup traffic number and slash it in half. At least.
7. Perfection is the enemy of good enough. Leonardo could paint the
Mona Lisa only once. You, Bob Ross, can push a bug release every 5
minutes because you were at least smart enough to do a web app.
8. The size of your startup is not a reflection of your manhood.
More employees does not make you more of a man (or woman as the case
9. You don't need business development people. If you're successful,
companies will come to you. The deals will still be distractions and
not worth doing, but at least you're not spending any effort trying to
10. You have to be wrong in the head to start a company. But we have all the fun.
11. Starting a company will teach you what it's like to be a manic depressive. They, at least, can take medication.
12. Your startup isn't succeeding? You have two options: go home
with your tail between your legs or do something about it. What's it
going to be?
13. If you don't pay attention to your competition, they will turn
out to be geniuses and will crush you. If you do pay attention to them,
they will turn out to be idiots and you will have wasted your time.
Which would you prefer?
14. Startups are not a democracy. Want a democracy? Go run for class president, Bueller.
15. You're doing a web app, right? This isn't the 1980s. Your
crummy, half-assed web app will still be more successful than your
competitor's most polished software application.
Zlio — the 'social commerce
network' that lets anyone set up their own web shop in a matter of
minutes — just raked in USD 4 million in funding from Mangrove Capital
Partners, an early investor in Skype. So what have they been up to
since we featured
them in February? Two milestones were recently reached: 100,000 shops
(from 35,000 in February) and 2.5 million visitors per month.
Shopbuilders now have over 3 million products to choose from, with
sales handled by partners like Barnes & Nobles, which recently
signed up as a merchant. Participating minipreneurs
are earning up to USD 750 per month in commissions, by carefully
selecting products, tweaking their shop's design and promoting it
everywhere they can. Shops focus on niches from Birkenstocks to Great
British TV, and Gifts Under $20 to Everything Elvis.
Some users have started operating multiple boutiques,
cross-promoting and buying AdWords to drive traffic to their ZlioShops.
Bloggers place widgets on their websites featuring products that appeal
to their audience. As explained by a shopkeeper who blogs about
mediaeval re-enactments: "Instead of being an affiliate marketer for 15
different sites, and having multiple competing ad blocks on my page, I
can just select the products I want to promote regardless of the store
of origin. Saves me lots of time in signing up, getting approved and
designing ads from the many different websites offering affiliate
As both merchants and consumers become more familiar with this type
of commerce, there's room for other players in this field, especially
in countries that aren't yet covered by Zlio — Asian and South-American
contenders to follow soon?
Like the Charles River Ventures Quick Start program,
the idea is to allow entrepreneurs to raise a small amount of capital
with a minimum number of hurdles. Bay is promising to make a decision
to invest within a couple of days of meeting the company, bypassing the
normally weeks-long process of raising capital.
Unlike the CRV fund, though, AppFactory is investing only new
Facebook applications. Salil Deshpande, the Bay Partner who will run
the program along with senior associate Angela Strange, says that
Facebook is now the Social Operating System, and that new platforms and
systems historically lead to a new economy. Bay wants to be in the
middle of that economy and fund as many of the “killer applications” as
they are able to find.
Salil says 40,000 developers have requested keys from Facebook to create applications, and over 1,600 have already launched on Facebook.
AppFactory will be making up to fifty investments ranging from
$25,000 to $250,000. Salil says that they have preferred deal terms,
but are willing to consider making equity or debt investments, and will
work with co-investors as well. Basically, he says, they want to help
entrepreneurs build and monetize Facebook applications with a minimum
Is the Facebook platform real? Some people question the intelligence
of entrepreneurs who build their new companies entirely on the back of
another startup. But in general I agree with venture capitalist Josh Kopelman - building for Facebook removes many of the risks associated with getting a startup off the ground.
The project goal is to “create a system for users to seamlessly
share, view, and respond to many types of social content across
multiple networks.” More information is available deeper in the site:
Socialstream emphasizes improving social connections by
making it more efficient to communicate with, share with, and view the
social content of all the people in a user’s online social network.
Socialstream provides a compelling user experience because it
aggregates content across many different networks so a user has a
single location to discover new content and communicate. The goal of
Socialstream is to present social information in a way that ties it to
the person who posted the information, and not the site from which it
The feature set and use cases
suggest this will be more of an aggregator of existing social
networking sites and features. There is absolutely no indication of
whether or not this will be productized and launched at this time.
A study of attitudes about online advertising shows that, not
surprisingly, preteens and teenagers don't like banner ads and other
interruptions from marketers. But the study found that in the right
circumstances kids enjoy playing with ad-related features on their
personal pages in social-networking Web sites.
The study is
likely to prove useful for marketers trying to reach today's generation
of children. It is likely to fuel a push by digital ad agencies to get
marketers to experiment with new ways to advertise on social-networking
sites such as Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace.
In particular, the study's findings may boost ...